A nonprofit preservation group has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to try to halt the electrical transmission line planned for across the James River near Jamestown, the site of the historic settlement.
Dominion Energy won final federal approval for the project last week, which will feature 17 towers, some nearly 300 feet in height, marching across the river. The James City County Board of Supervisors approved a switching station for the project earlier this week.
Historic preservationists have opposed the project on the grounds that it will alter a landscape that has changed little since Capt. John Smith and the Virginia Company founded the first permanent English settlement in America more than 400 years ago.
“If we allow this to happen to one of America’s most important historic areas, what’s next for our other national parks?” said Theresa Pierno, chief executive of the National Parks Conservation Association, which filed the lawsuit in federal court in Washington. “We will continue to fight in court to ensure that reckless development does not destroy this treasured and historic area.”
Dominion says the towers will not be visible from the historic fort on Jamestown Island, but they will be just downstream near Carter’s Grove Plantation in an area thick with history.
Environmentalists also have warned that the crossing will threaten an endangered population of sturgeon that spawn in that area of the river.
But the utility has said the 500,000-volt line is necessary to ensure reliable power for the Virginia Peninsula region as two coal-fired plants in Yorktown are phased out because of environmental standards.
The Corps of Engineers considered alternatives, including digging the line under the river, but found the crossing to be the best option.
“The Army Corps and other approving agencies followed the law and based their permitting decisions on sound legal basis after considerable study and input from the public and various other constituents,” Dominion spokeswoman Le-Ha Anderson said in an email. “This has been one of the most heavily scrutinized infrastructure projects in the history of Virginia and any further delay in its construction will only put at greater risk our ability to keep the lights on in the Peninsula.”
The conservation group said the Corps failed to conduct a full environmental impact statement and is asking the court to halt the project until alternatives are given more scrutiny.
A spokesman for the Army Corps said the agency “is unable to comment on matters in litigation.”